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Love Speak; lost in translation

Giving gifts can often be a way to warm someone’s heart.

Giving gifts can often be a way to warm someone’s heart.

St. Valentine started it all. Although the truth behind the various legends is somewhat murky, one fact is likely true. The priest who lived during the third century in Rome was imprisoned for performing clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry. Before his execution on February 14, 207 AD, he wrote a farewell letter to his true love while in prison, and signed it “From Your Valentine.” It became the day we now celebrate love.

But around 1900, handwritten declarations of love began to lose favor with the arrival of mass produced, printed Valentine cards. They made it an easy way for people to express their feelings—even anonymously—during a time when doing so was strongly discouraged.

Today, how couples express their feelings is an ongoing, endless topic. On Valentine’s Day, finding ways to say “I love you” would seem easy enough, but it’s gotten complicated.

It’s a language thing. According to Gary Chapman, New York Times best-selling author of The Five Love Languages, it’s about communicating/expressing love in ways that meet the other’s needs. People tend to demonstrate love in the same way they want to receive it. But although every person expresses love however it’s most natural and comfortable, the message may not be getting through to the intended. When it comes to personal choices for expressing love, the language can be confusing, especially when the giver and receiver are on different wavelengths.

For example, he brings her flowers but she really longs for a romantic dinner. She cooks him a gourmet breakfast but he really wants affectionate hugs. Should it be that complicated? Why not just smell the flowers and go out for dinner? Or enjoy the fancy breakfast along with a hug and kind words? Probably because neither one of them knows what the other wants or how to give it.

And this is only one day. What about the rest of the year?

Although a litany of books and articles depict dozens of ways to show love to your nearest and dearest, Chapman says there are really only five. People experience being loved and showing love in many different ways, which is the point of Chapman’s thesis. His languages are basic, simplistic fundamentals of communication that aren’t really new, but worth revisiting on a regular basis as a kind of refresher course.Chapman, who is a marriage counselor and minister, firmly believes that understanding and practicing these five languages is paramount to building a strong and healthy relationship.

Words of Affirmation

Encouraging words and praise are powerful ways to show love. Chapman wonders what would happen to the emotional climate of a relationship if both parties spoke affirmative words regularly.  But he warns about failing to understand what each person really wants and needs from the other. An honest conversation would help.

Quality Time

If your language is quality time with your partner, then mountains of gifts won’t make you feel loved. It’s being together, fully present and engaged without cell phones, television, computers or other interruptions. Short of going to a desert island, it’s about getting away from the norm—and being together.

Giving Gifts

For some people, an unexpected gift is proof they are cared about. Others may feel it’s an easy way out of the other four languages. But if it’s what the other person needs to feel loved, appreciated and thought about, then this simple gesture is worth emotional gold.

Acts of Service

Actions can speak louder than words. Doing something for the other person without being asked, however mundane, speaks volumes, especially to the one on the receiving end if that is the person’s primary language.

Physical Touch

A gentle, affectionate touch provides comfort and reassurance to the person whose primary language is touching. Some people love being touched, others may have difficulty reaching out and doing the touching. It can be a delicate area but again, there’s nothing like talking about it.

So in the spirit of this article, an unofficial, random poll among eight friends asked the question, “How do you like to show and receive love in your relationship?”

This was met with surprised and perplexed expressions, shaking of heads and blank stares. But finally, six agreed that all the languages were a regular part of giving and receiving in their relationships, one admitted they didn’t talk about it, and another said he didn’t know.
Well, it all starts with the heart.